Oil & Natural Gas Projects
Exploration and Production Technologies
Remote Sensing for Environmental Baseline and Monitoring
This project was funded through DOE's Natural Gas and Oil Technology Partnership
Program. The program establishes alliances that combine the resources and experience
of the nation's petroleum industry with the capabilities of the national laboratories
to expedite research, development, and demonstration of advanced technologies
for improved natural gas and oil recovery.
The goal was to develop an improved ability to provide detailed environmental
data for a region rapidly and at low cost.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
Oak Ridge, TN
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
Geobotanical maps have been produced by assigning the spectra of each pixel
in a hyperspectral image to a unique class from a small set of classes. The
classes can be used to identify plant species, map vegetation, characterize
soil properties, identify contamination, classify ecological units and habitat
characteristics, and differentiate causes of vegetation stress.
The main benefit of this project, both to the public and to the petroleum industry,
will be an improved ability to provide detailed environmental data for a region
rapidly and at low cost. Increasingly, environmental data are needed to assess
present conditions of lands owned, leased, or managed by petroleum companies
and to characterize and quantify changes in the environmental conditions of
these lands through time. Present methods of assessing large areas depend extensively
on field surveys, which can take weeks or months to complete. Such methods are
inconvenient and can be expensive. Further, some areas that are inaccessible
or very large are difficult or virtually impossible to monitor accurately using
field-survey techniques only. Hyperspectral sensing can be used to provide rapid
quantitative measurements and identification of type of stress causing environmental
Current field monitoring costs about $20,000 per acre. The cost of hyperspectral
imagery is about $60,000 for 80,000 acres (324 square kilometers). Using commercial
software, preliminary analysis of the measurements to produce geobotanical maps
cost $10,000. Thus, after research is completed, the total cost of producing
geobotanical maps may be about $1/acre. Advanced methods using satellite data
may be able to reduce the cost of hyperspectral imagery component of the total
An ideal experiment for this project would be to apply petroleum hydrocarbons
to a plot and obtain hyperspectral images of the plants on the plot before and
after the spill, to characterize changes in vegetative condition through time.
In June 2000, a "natural" experiment occurred when a road grader accidentally
cut an oil pipeline, allowing oil to spray over a five-acre area at the Jornada
Experimental Range near Las Cruces, NM. Furthermore, airplane hyperspectral
images were obtained over the Jornada site just 10 days after the oil spill.
During the first phase of the project, researchers collected field data at the
Jornada site and obtained access to the hyperspectral data. Unfortunately, the
hyperspectral image missed the oil spill site, and most of the vegetation was
dead rather than stressed by July 2001, when the researchers visited. During
the first phase, project performers developed new methods for analyzing hyperspectral
data and applied them to a large collection of hyperspectral field-data measurements.
During the second phase of the project, the focus shifted to Osage County,
OK, which is the Osage Indian Reservation and has been a major oil producing
area (38,500 oil wells) since 1896. The county is large (2,260 square miles),
and 1,480 square miles of it are within a quarter mile of an oil well. Many
areas in the county have brine scars or weathered oil pits. The objective of
the project was to collect airplane hyperspectral data in selected regions of
Osage County and analyze the data to detect brine scars, oil pits, and plant
stress associated with brine and oil.
ARS provided 665 field measurements that were made at the Jornada site. The
project has completed an analysis of 211 measurements. Each measurement was
described with 1 or 2 of 12 labels for bare soil, plant litter, and 10 plant
species. This data set was used to test whether or not each of the 12 labels
had a distinct hyperspectral signature.
High-resolution hyperspectral data was purchased from the HyVista Corporation
that covered 185 square kilometers in Osage County. Researchers have analyzed
data for nine sites that range in size from 23,100 pixels (0.21 square kilometers)
to 104,160 pixels (0.94 square kilometer). They have developed a new clustering
algorithm that was used to classify the spectra of each pixel. The radius of
the cluster is controlled by a parameter. For a large radius, there is a small
number of clusters and vice versa. Geobotanical maps have been produced for
the nine sites.
A paper, A New Clustering Algorithm for Unsupervised Classification, has been
reviewed by the journal Remote Sensing of Environment. The paper is being revised
by authors for submission to this journal.
Reports were made on the analysis approach for the Jornada oil-spill site (2001),
analysis of the field data from the Jornada oil spill site (2002), and analysis
of the remote data from Osage County (2004).
A paper, Hyperspectral signature of the salt scar and other oilfield disturbed
areas at USGS Osage-Skiatook Petroleum Environmental Research (OSPER) Site A,
northeast Oklahoma-a preliminary report, was presented at the 11th International
Petroleum Environmental Conference (IPEC) in Albuquerque, NM, on October 12,
Project Start: May 11, 2001
Project End: May 10, 2004
Anticipated DOE Contribution: $500,000
Performer Contribution: $150,000 (77% of total)
Other Government Organizations Involved
NETL - Jesse Garcia (firstname.lastname@example.org or 918-699-2036)
ORNL - David Reister (ReisterDB@ornl.gov or 865-574-2272)
USGS Site A.
Geobotanical map for USGS Site A with 48 classes.